But a few weak performances and we'll be right back to the in-house squibbling that derailed the early portion of the season. So, with cooler heads prevailing. I think now is the time to examine some of the combustible rumors that surround this team.
David Blatt has LOST the locker room
This may be true. There are certainly enough think pieces and GIFs to lend some fire to the smoke. But for the most part, the feeding frenzy that followed LBJ's "infamous" shove of his coach (an effort, allegedly, to prevent his coach from receiving a technical foul) has ceased. ESPN didn't make "no high five gate" into a trending Twitter topic after James didn't slap hands with Blatt following a timeout in the Chicago game. No one has been shouting from the mountaintops demanding Blatt's job. The allegations that Tyronn Lue is undermining his boss have faded to the background. Which leads us to this: Has David Blatt lost the locker room?
I don't think so. But that is a big "think."
The team is on a winning streak. Part of that has to do with the healthy return of LeBron. Part of it has do with the addition of talent to the team (J.R. Smith and The MozGod). But part of it also has to do with the evolution of Blatt's coaching. He's getting marginally better at managing minutes and strategically using timeouts. His play design has shown flashes of brilliance (namely that inbounds pass against the Clippers that caused James to give him some dap). Blatt is not a bad coach. And the younger players on the team, what's left of them, do seem to value his insight.
But he's still visibly struggling to connect with the veterans. And while the media might be overplaying the tension between Blatt and his star player, that relationship is not a lovefest. James did give a mealymouthed defense of his coach and he's definitely gone stretches without (appearing to) put in full-effort. It's a curious situation. The team is winning now, so no one cares. But if LBJ spreads enough toxicity into the locker room, it's hard to imagine Blatt being here long-term.
Verdict: Wait and see.
The Cavs cannot play championship caliber defense
I'm going to spoil the verdict on this one but....
We have to wait and see how Shump and MozGod impact this team. Moz is already answering prayers and decreasing opposing shot percentages. He's going to be a meaningful player for this team. I don't care if he was brought in to give Blatt an ally (definitely a factor), I don't care if the team overpaid for him (they did) and I don't give a single shit if he IS Ivan Drago (please, please, please). The man is playing solid Defense in the middle.
But the perimeter play is still iffy. And reading posts on New York Knicks' blogs does not inspire awe-inducing confidence in Shumpert. Some of the New York faithful's ranting could be sour grapes, sure. But some of it seems possible. Shump DID have a dynamite rookie season before mostly dropping off the radar. His early showing against the Hornets was promising but short-lived. Nine minutes does not a season make. Let's see how this guy plays the rest of the way.
James seems motivated again. Irving gives a shit. Love is a sieve. The rest of the team is who we thought they were. The X-factors will be Shump and MozGod.
Verdict: Wait and see.
The offense is a mess.
Wrong. Flat fucking wrong.
Did you all watch the Hornets game? The Cavs exploded in the first half for 75 points. This team is soaked through with talent and if JR Smith is going to hit 7 of 11 three pointers (for all 21 of his points) then I'd say this team is damn near unstoppable. I would be intrigued by a postseason matchup with the soaring Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Hawks are Diet Spurs and look preposterously good in the muck-ridden Eastern Conference, but I still can't envision an Atlanta championship. Maybe I'm a homer, but maybe the Hawks need to prove their style of ball will translate to the playoffs. Yes, Al Horford is very, very good. But are the Hawks' second and third best players comparable to David Robinson, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli (or Kawhi Leonard)? Don't forget how necessary those cogs were in San Antonio winning multiple titles.
The Cavaliers offense is starting to live up to its billing. We don't have to wait and see anymore. We know what this team is capable of.
Verdict: The offense is amazing.
Kevin Love doesn't fit with this team.
This one holds water, I'm afraid. If Love is going to continue to be a swinging screen door on defense and shoot sub-.400 from the floor, then he isn't going to fit on most NBA teams. I continue to hope that this is a prolonged slump from the former Minnesota Timberwolves forward. But man....
It is distinctly possible, as been suggested, that Love is a guy who scores a ton of points on a bad team.
Verdict: Sadly, possible. Everyone take a shot.
Cleveland is a hell hole of a city. A sinkpit of American dreams.
During almost every nationally broadcast game, some douche pundit has to drop some version of this line, "Well, the reason JR Smith is playing so well right now is that Cleveland is a miserable, shitty fucking town that barely has a pot to piss in. Smith can only play basketball here. There is LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE TO DO."
This is usually followed by several minutes of weeping into the microphone and a lonely gunshot that rings into the abyss, claiming another broken soul.
So is Cleveland hell on Earth? I mean, I do live here so...
Verdict: Eh. Probably.